Does drinking alcohol protect you against COVID-19?

In a Nutshell

  • Alcohol consumption does not protect or prevent against COVID-19 Infection
  • Alcohol consumption is linked to several acute and chronic health issues
  • During COVID-19 pandemic, avoid excessive alcohol intake as it lowers immunity and can make you more vulnerable to infections and injuries

Alcohol Ingestion

It is a known fact that alcohol can be an effective antiseptic. Hand sanitizers and several cleaning supplies contains about 60 - 95% ethanol that helps in killing germs and microbes from skin and/or hard surfaces. Misinformation and fear led a lot of people to believe that ingestion of high strength alcohol can kill COVID-19 virus and can protect against the infection. But is it true?

It is noteworthy that alcohol consumption is responsible for over 3 million deaths worldwide each year. In United States, alcohol consumption claims over 3,00,000 lives each year.

Verdict: Does drinking alcohol protect you against COVID-19?

Alcohol consumption does not protect you from COVID-19 and therefore should never be consumed as a preventive protocol to prevent COVID-19 infection. Studies indicates that high alcohol concentration in the body impair immune responses.

Consumption of 1 standard alcoholic beverage can increase your blood alcohol concentration to 0.01 to 0.03%. This concentration is too low to render any antiseptic activity. It is also important to keep in mind that a blood alcohol concentration of 0.4% is lethal.

A standard alcoholic drink is defined as:

  • 12 oz dose of regular beer (most beers are about 5% alcohol)
  • 5 oz. dose of wine (wines are usually about 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 oz of distilled spirit (or hard liquor which are usually about 40% alcohol)

Healthcare providers and organizations recommend restricting alcohol intake especially during this current situation as excessive alcohol can adversely affect your vital organs such as liver and can also compromise your immune system thereby making you more susceptible to a number of health issues and infections including COVID-19.

Data also indicates that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with:

  • Increased risk of alcohol poisoning and acute liver damage
  • Higher vulnerability of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome and other respiratory issues
  • Higher risk of injury due to fall
  • Aggravation of mental health issues as alcohol is a nervous system depressant
  • Increased risk of violence (especially partner or domestic violence)
  • Higher probability of risk-taking behavior, such as driving under intoxication, getting into fights etc.

In addition, consumption of high-strength alcohol or alcohol mixed with methanol can lead to serious complications, including death.

Nuances/ Safety

It is highly recommended to restrict alcohol consumption, especially if you have a prior history of alcohol abuse. Alcohol acts as a brain depressant, which means that excessive consumption can make people depressed. Individuals who have a history of mental health issues are more vulnerable to the depressive side effects of alcohol. Alcohol induced depression may worsen during self-isolation and therefore extreme caution should be maintained during COVID-19 pandemic.

Strength of Evidence: A
There is significant evidence that alcohol ingestion does not protect against COVID-19 infection as suggested by numerous case studies and recommendations from World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control & Prevention, Pan American Health Organization and other health bodies.

Our Ruling

Alcohol is classified among the most lethal legal drug that claims more than 3 million deaths worldwide. Alcohol ingestion does not protect against COVID-19 infection. Experts suggests that carefree consumption of alcohol during lockdown situation can aggravate the risk of injury, self-harm, violence, or accidents and therefore should be avoided as much as possible.

Our Sources:

  1. https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/news/news/2020/4/alcohol-does-not-protect-against-covid-19-access-should-be-restricted-during-lockdown
  2. https://www.paho.org/en/news/14-4-2020-alcohol-does-not-protect-against-covid-19-and-its-access-should-be-restricted-during
  3. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/news-events/news-noteworthy/drinking-alcohol-does-not-prevent-or-treat-coronavirus-infection
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How we grade evidence?

Learn more about it here.